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Surfing in Bali

If you're doing a surf trip to Bali and want hotel accommodation, book a hotel for the first night or two before you get there so you have somewhere to stay. Once you get to Bali, go hunting around for a hotel you like the look of - you'll usually get better prices than from travel agent and/or internet, and you can choose the standard and location to suit. Some hotels may arrange airport pickup but not the cheap ones. Taxis will rip you off at the airport, and charge extra for surfboards. If you want to walk, it's a long way.

The main areas where surfers and tourists stay in order of distance from the airport are Kuta (busy, noisy and central), Legian (popular, some say better nightlife), Seminyak (more upmarket and less hectic). The three areas are merged in to one town. Walking from Seminyak to Kuta takes about an hour depending on start and finish points. Legian is halfway between.

The Bukit Peninsula juts out from the southern part of the island of Bali and is where most of the main surf breaks are.

Before you go and Getting There

  • Flights from Dubai to Bali involve a stop in Singapore or somewhere else in Asia. Dubai to Singapore is about 6 hours, and another 3 hours to Bali. Singapore Airlines are worth checking, also Indonesian Airlines, Malaysian Airlines, Thai Air. Bali International Airport is in the town of Denpasar but is only 15-20 mins by taxi from Kuta. Don't bother staying in Denpasar.
  • Visas available on arrival for most western nationalities, and many others - check with the embassy for up to day information. Cost was $25 for 30 days in 2006.
  • Take US$, $A, NZ$, euros or £ to exchange but not large notes like $100 - they may not accept them due to counterfeit risk. Avoid roadside money changers, or the small booths in shops. There's a high chance of being ripped off - they are usually more clever than you at doing something sneaky. Use a proper bank or your hotel. There are plenty of ATMs around too. Traveller's checks are fine but the exchange rate is lower.
  • Allow $25 per day for a cheap holiday - look for warungs to eat and sleep in and you'll spend even less.
  • Allow $50 per day for good food and drink, satisfactory accommodation and a few bintang t-shirts (you'll understand when you get there). Or good accommodation if you're two to a room.
  • You can spend much more than this if you want to eat in posh restaurants and stay in boutique or 5 star hotels.


  • Most, if not all, hotels have lush gardens and swimming pools. The cheapest ones have mosquitos and no airconditioning. You can live without a/c but it's nice to have it.
  • Legian & Kuta - good selection with prices from $20 to $55 per night for basic to very comfortable room on or close to the beach. Breakfast normally included.
  • Seminyak a bit more pricey (or there's just fewer cheap hotels in Seminyak) with some very luxurious hotels directly on the beach.
  • Sari Beach Inn a good choice in Legian. On the beach.
  • Jayakarta Hotel also worth considering.
  • The Bounty hotel on Poppies I in Kuta - well-known party central in good location if you want to be in the middle of it all, good buffet breakfast included, ok rooms, swimming pool, 5 min walk to Kuta Beach.

Books and Guides

  • "Indo Surf and Lingo" - available in Bali surfshops - good guide to where to surf.
  • "Bagus" - introduction to language (Bahasa Indonesia). "Bagus" means "good".

Entertainment and Nightlife

  • Captain Cooks bar
  • La Lucciola
  • Macaroni's - on Jl Legian near Poppies II.
  • Paddy's Bar - a well-known bar and nightclub. Used to be across the road from the Sari Club (the one that got blown up) but has moved down the street a few meters.
  • Poco Loco - margueritas and mexican food, popular but average.
  • Sea Side
  • Tubes, Poppies I - the surfiest surf bar in Kuta. Surf movies on big screen, important sports matches, or latest Hollywood movies. Food reasonable, beer cold. Closed for renovations summer 2006.

Food & Drink

  • Don't drink the tap water. Brushing teeth with it might be ok depending on your luck and constitution.
  • Ice is apparently made with boiled water so should be safe.
  • Street food is cheap eg 6000 Rp for satay and rice (less than $1).
  • Other meals to try are Nasi or Mie Goreng, Lontong (rice cooked in banana leaves). Many more suggestions in the forum topic.

Sightseeing for surfers and tourists

Transport and Getting Around

  • "Jalan" means "road" or "street". Jalan Legian is the main road through Kuta, Legian and Seminyak. Poppies I and Poppies II are well known roads between Jalan Legian and the beach front but very narrow. Don't bring your Hummer. You'll find shops including many surf shops, cheap bars and retaurants, and a couple of hotels.
  • The Blue Taxis are metered and cheap but will sometimes try to negotiate a more expensive amount and switch off the meter, especially late at night.
  • From the airport, taxis will charge you typical ripoffthetourist rates. And they'll try and make you pay the same again for a surfboard. With a bit of effort, you can bargain down the amount a bit, but not that much.
  • Rent a motorbike cheaply from hundreds of places - everyone seems to have one. Surfboard racks can be included. Costs 30,000-40,000 Rp per day with reduced rates for longer hires. You're supposed to have an International Driving License (Permit) but if only for car, it should be fine. Make sure your medical insurance is up to date and covers you for motorcycle accidents in foreign countries while driving drunk without the correct license.
  • Air Paradise - launched in 2003, flopped in 2005 after 2nd Bali bomb, possible resurrection in 2007.


  • Balian - 2-3 hours from Kuta/Legian, rights and lefts (long), bigger than Kuta/Legian.
  • Bingin - fast barreling wave.
  • Changgu - 30 min drive from Legian.
  • Dreamland - some say mellow, others say heavy. Check it on high tide first if you're not sure. Longish drive and a walk down a cliff.
  • Kuta - fast beach breaks, beginners will be fine in the soup.
  • Legian - not quite as fast or heavy as Kuta, but almost.
  • Medewi - less challenging LH wave breaking over rocks but a 3 hour drive from Kuta/Legian/Seminyak.
  • Oberoi - (seminyak) bigger than Kuta/Legian but easier to catch and ride because not so hollow or fast.
  • Padang-Padang - which is Balinese for "ouch, my head went boing boing on the reef when I wiped out". Good luck.
  • Uluwatu - not for beginners but great to watch on a big day from the tea shop on top of the cliff.

What to bring

  • Booties - not necessary if you only surf the beach breaks at Kuta, Legian, Seminyak or some of the reef breaks like Dreamland at high tide.
  • First Aid Kit / Medicine Kit - not so important if you staying around Bali but perhaps useful if you go on a boat trip.
  • Surfboard - shortboard for fast breaking, powerful waves. Don't bother with a long board. Rental boards are available but usually poor condition. Plenty of selection if you want to buy one. Prices aren't very cheap though.
  • Warm clothes - not necessary, climate is warm and dry or warm and wet or warm and humid.

What not to bring

  • Drugs. If you haven't heard about the Australians stuck in Bali jails, then you probably should not be allowed to travel anywhere on your own. There is some dispute regarding their guilt or innocence.

Other information, forum topics and links

  • Board and ding repairs are cheap, quick, and usually well done - pick any surf shop.
  • Nearly all waves are lefts - great for goofys.
  • Sanur and Nusa Dua are places on the other side of the island of Bali. Surf season is the opposite to the Kuta/Legian surf season with onshore winds in June-Aug, and offshore from Dec-Feb. A bit of an odd place. Luxury hotels and shopping malls, purpose built for rich tourists, feels like a different planet.
  • www.baliwaves.com - not checked, was in forum.
  • SODs in Bali summer 2003 - Surfers of Dubai in Bali
  • Tips on Bali? - December 2003, some useful links.
  • Bali links - not very many.
  • www.indostreets.com/maps/kuta/ - map
  • www.baliforyou.com - suggested on forum, not checked.
  • www.directrooms.com - online accommodation booking with usually quite good rates.
  • www.baliblog.com - here's a story about foreigners caught (or set up?) with drugs.

Thanks especially to ketopak and jonners for contributions in the Bali information and prediction sites forum topic, and in the Bali - surf tips topic. Please add any comments, questions, corrections there.

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